Maheshwar…where simplicity meets spirituality!

“Hey, wake up! Aren’t you supposed to go to Maheshwar today? It’s already too late to leave so why don’t you postpone it and stay back at Indore!”, said my friend. But this time, I had decided not to miss out on Maheshwar for anything, not even for Poha Jalebi at Chhappan! Hence, I quickly got ready and left for bus stand. After catching bus from Sarwate, started my journey to Maheshwar; the historical city located on the banks of Narmada river in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. Maheshwar, literally translates to “the abode of Lord Shiva” and is associated with various mythological tales.

I was able to gather a lot of information about Maheshwar, chatting with two friendly co-passengers along the way.

Before I start describing my experience with this historical city, a little bit of history lesson about Maharani Ahilyabai Holkar is a must!

Born in the village of Chondi in Jamkhed, Ahmednagar, Maharani Ahilyabai was the Holkar Queen of the Malwa kingdom. She was married to Khanderao Holkar in 1733 who was killed in the battle of Kumbher in 1754, leaving her a widow at the age of 21. After the death of her father in law in 1767, her only son, Male Rao Holkar ascended the throne under her regency but he too died in few months and Ahilyabai Holkar became the ruler of Indore in 1767.  Her reign lasted for 30 years, which has become legendary period, during which perfect order and good government prevailed and the people prospered.

Apart from being the queen of Maratha Malwa kingdom, Ahilyabai Holkar was also a devotee of Lord Shiva. One can catch a glimpse of her simplicity and devotion towards Lord Shiva in every nook and corner of the fort. She spent major amount of her personal funds on the renovation of various temples across India and not on personal luxuries unlike other rulers across the country.

After a bus journey of three hours in the pleasant rainy weather, I got down at Maheshwar bus stand and caught an auto for Hotel Hansa Heritage, which is located at the foot of Maheshwar fort. This hotel has got its own charm with a rustic decor and colourful glass windows.

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Inside Hansa Heritage

Throughout my bus ride, I kept planning to catch up on my sleep after reaching Maheshwar. But, the moment I got down from the auto rikshaw, the first thing I noticed was the entrance of the fort and it was welcoming enough to put my plans of napping on hold.

After finishing the check in formalities, I quickly left for the fort and was lucky to get a guide at the entrance itself.

At the entrance of the fort, one can witness a life size statue of Devi Ahilyabai Holkar holding a Shivalinga.

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Entrance of Maheshwar Fort
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Statue of Maharani Ahilyabai Holkar holding a Shiva Linga; at the entrance of Maheshwar Fort. Maharani Ahilyabai Holkar is depicted wearing a white saree. She had only 3 of these sarees which were woven by her.

The Rajwada of Maheshwar fort has been converted into Fort Ahilya Hotel and is managed by Richard Holkar, a descendant of Holkar dynasty.

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Rajwada of Maheshwar which is converted into Fort Ahilya Hotel

Right opposite the Rajwada is the way leading to Narmada ghat. A flight down the stairs leads to the cluster of temples inside the fort which are basically memorials of various members of the Holkar family. These memorials are locally known as chhatri. A glimpse of the holy Narmada river can be caught from here.

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View of Ahilyeshwar Shivalaya and Vithoji’s Chhatri from the stairs
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Glimpse of Narmada Ghat from the stairs

On the right lies the Ahilyeshwar temple which is a temple of Lord Shiva and on the left lies the Akhileshwar temple, also known as Chhatri (cenotaph) of Vithoji Rao Holkar.

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Vithoji’s Chhatri/Akhileshwar Temple
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Ahilyeshwar Shivalaya facing Vithoji’s Chhatri
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Apparently, this is where the opening scene of the movie, Padman was shot!

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Narmada ghat of Maheshwar fort is quite popular shooting destination of Bollywood movies; often wrongly portrayed as Ganga ghat in Varanasi.

The entire ~2 km stretch of the ghat is lined with small Shiva Lingas. A short boat ride can take you to the Baneshwar temple which lies in the middle of the river.

As I was walking along the ghat, soaking in the beauty of the moment, the guide asked me to proceed to the next destination. Reluctantly, I left for Raj Rajeshwar temple which is also a historical temple where 11 lamps (Akhand Deepak) have been lit for centuries.

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View of Narmada Ghat from the back of Vithoji’s Chhatri
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Numerous Shivalingas are lined along the entire ghat. This one, however is aligned with the centre of steps of the fort
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Another view of the fort
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Baneshwar Temple
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Shri Raj Rajeshwar temple; a temple of Lord Shiva in fort complex. 11 lamps (Akhand Deepak) in this temple have been lit for centuries

After visiting the fort and Rajarajeshwar temple, it was time to shop for Maheshwari Saree which is another specialty of Maheshwar.

Maheshwar has been the centre of handloom weaving dating back to 5th century. Handloom weaving is still the major source of income for the locals.

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Inside Bhagyashree Saree Emporium

As per my guide’s suggestion, I visited Bhagyashree Saree Emporium which is located very close to the fort. The sarees were beautiful and the owner was courteous enough to take me for a short visit to his workshop where weavers were working on various types of sarees on handlooms. He patiently explained the entire process of weaving a saree from choosing the threads to setting up the loom depending upon the design.

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Weaver setting up the loom for weaving Maheshwari Saree
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Another weaver working on handloom

It had started raining by the time I was done shopping so I decided to head back to my hotel. I finally got to get a shut eye after a tiring yet rewarding day.

The beautiful morning at Maheshwar called for the typical Indori breakfast of Pohe, and where else could I get better Pohe in Maheshwar than at Ballu Bhaiya’s hotel, located right opposite Hansa Heritage.

I took a quick tour of the fort after breakfast and started my journey back to Indore.

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Pohe at Ballu Bhaiya’s hotel
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Ballu Bhaiya’s hotel where you get the best Pohe in Maheshwar

The people of Maheshwar are as simple and good hearted as their queen Devi Ahilyabai Holkar was. The simplicity of this town is her legacy.

My stay at Maheshwar was short but memorable and I would love going back to this town again, especially to experience the sunrise and sunset at Narmada ghat since I missed out on it this time, due to rains.

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